The earliest calendars in the world were found on the African continent. This was not surprising because Africa was the ‘Cradle of Humanity’. The African calendars were based on star or celestial maps containing solar arks known as zodiacs. The celestial maps show that the universe is a living organism consisting of parts that are inter-connected, inter-related and inter-dependent. The earth and humanity are parts of this living organism.
In African thought a calendar was not an arbitrary organisation of the days of the year but a record of the spiritual and physical order and administration of the affairs of the universe. Therefore in order to understand the origins and application of the African Water Calendar, one requires a sound knowledge of the spiritual and material structure of the universe.Time and space
The greatest contribution of the African Renaissance to humanity will be the restoration of spirituality to mitigate the crass materialism that threatens to devour humanity. The African Cultural Renaissance Campaign of the African Union (the “AU”) should first and foremost reawaken humanity to the fact that human development has both spiritual and material aspects and that therefore the individual should live in both the spiritual and material world at the same time. The individual must achieve harmony between his spiritual and physical aspects and harmony between himself, herself, nature and God. This requires human regeneration as a prerequisite for the Regeneration of Africa.
The twelve houses of the Zodiac form the boundary between the spiritual and the material world. The building blocks of the spiritual world are mind, soul and body (of light) while the building blocks of the maerial world are the four elements of water, fire, earth and air. Thus all reality or existence was made up of five elements of ether, water, fire, earth and air. Since the ether is a triune element it means there are seven building blocks of all reality consisting of mind, soul, body, water, fire, earth and air. This means that all reality including the earth and humanity are made of the same substance and have, therefore, the same intrinsic value called Ubuntu. There is therefore no spiritual or scientific basis for human, gender and other forms of inequalities.
In the spiritual world the Spiritual Sun (Kara) and the seven pleiades or circumpolar (Khelemela) stars are used to measure time. In the material world the Zodiac and the Ladder of Creation are used to measure time. For these purposes the Zodiac was structured as follows.
The lunar festivals
The lunar year was divided into three seasons of four months each. These seasons known as the ploughing, harvest and initiation seasons are dealt with below.
* The ploughing period (September to December).
The First season of the lunar year starts with the appearance of the seven pleiades or circumpolar (khelemela) stars in September. The ploughing period was named after the seven pleiades or circumpolar (Khelemela) stars. Thus this period was called khelemo, selemo, Isilemo, shirimo, chirimo, kilimia, etc.
The celebration of the African new year in September creates a platform for creating awareness about the African heritage and indigenous knowledge systems – including archeo-astronomy, spiritual, cultural and agricultural festivals and particularly the African Water Calendar.
Throughout October month indigenous African people held rain-making ceremonies to thank god and gods, including royal ancestors, for the rain and fertility of the soil. During October ploughing also takes place.
In November the seeds sown in September and October germínate and grow. Thus in November nature is reborn, the environment must be protected, the cutting of trees and killing of female animals is prohibited. Thus November was and should remain an environmental conservation and protection month.
The new moon in December enjoins communities to begin preparations for First Fruits celebrations, which started during the full moon in December. These celebrations reach their peak during the Summer Solstice (21 – 25/6) when the Sun (Ra) remains stationery on the Tropic of Capricorn and performs a solar dance. December 25, in particular, was regarded as the birthday of Lion Gods (e.g. Osiris or Mwanamutapa), Horus or Mutapa and Ra Harakhte or Xpakhte (Greek Xpictoc) pronounced Christos. The ploughin time was also called Akhte (Greek Eichton, popularly known as Aton or Aten. This god is symbolised by the piscean symbol IHIS.
* The harvest period (January to April)
The second season of the lunar year starts in January and ends in April. The lion gods (Bondoro/Bontoro) born on December 25 remain in seclusion for 12 days before its public appearance described by the birth of the Light Child (Hahu or Ihy), child of the virgin mother (Kore). This festival was celebrated on January 6. It started with a Night Virgil on January 5. The celebration involved trumpet music and dance.
The water calendar and human development
In many conferences on water, environment and sustainable development, the indigenous African cultural heritage and knowledge systems are left out of account. The scientific or materialist concepts used in these conferences and resulting literature do not make sense to indigenous people because they do not speak to both the spiritual and material aspects of water and the environment.
Instead these materialist approaches are seen as producing development projects which damage the ecosystems, sacred springs and forests. These eurocentric approaches have also rooted out African spirituality and the worship of the Water Goddess who was (and still is) central to water and environmental conservation and protection.
The continued celebration of water festivals by Balobedu of Mudjadji the Rain Queen and Other communities in southern Africa and the rediscovery of the Maphungubwe heritage site which was the first rain making shrine in southern Africa, provides a framework for the revival of the African Water Calendar and its use as a tool to raise the awareness of indigenous African communities whose culture of water and environmental conservation and protection is fast diminishing because of the dominant materialist world-view that undermines the African spiritual traditions.
The launch of the Maphungubwe Heritage Route that links the water heritage shrines of Balobedu of Mudjadji, Lake Fundudzi, Maphungubwe, Mamagwa in Botswana, Matomboni in Zimbabwe etc. provides an integrated rain belt and chain of festivals which could be institutionalised and supported by government to advance water and environmental conservation and protection. This is the only tool that can get traditional communities to buy into new policies and programmes.
The current arbitrary dedication of months as transport, environment etc. months is not consistent with natural cycles. In view of the fact that food insecurity, climate change, decline of agriculture are the greatest threat to human survival, it is proposed that the African Water Calendar and Maphungubwe Heritage Route and particularly, the related solar and lunar festivals should be adopted and institutionalised to address the aforementioned challenges.
This should be coupled with the farming co-operative movement that President Jacob Zuma repeatedly called for. The slogan “let’s return to the fields” asibuyeleni a masimune must be translated into a national imperative and developmental goal. The achievement of this remains the only route to enable Africans to feed, dress and heal themselves.